A highly classified network of international bankers working with bureaucrats from the FBI, CIA and U.S. Federal Reserve is paying select, ultra-wealthy investors astronomical annual rates of return as high as 10,000 percent. In other words, participants—enrolled in the programs after undergoing background checks, giving assurances of secrecy and winning guarantees of no risk to their fortunes—see $1 million turn into a $100 million windfall within 12 months. If waiting a year is too long, these investors can choose other off-the-book, "Fed-licensed" programs with 600 percent returns after just 30 days.
Those are among the promises of a group of individuals that contacted Tom Moore with the goal of allowing the filthy-rich Newport Beach businessman to participate in the hush-hush, government-approved scheme. But the sales pitch failed to enthrall Moore. Name-dropping spy and law-enforcement agency acronyms didn't impress him either. Moore's not rolling in money. He's not a businessman. Hell, Moore isn't even Moore. He's Thomas Reitz, a savvy, senior member of the FBI's Orange County field office.
Half a decade ago, federal agents in Southern California launched undercover operations that involved the creation of opulent, fake, business-world identities; set the bait; and then waited to see who'd call looking for a reality-suspending sucker. Based on the FBI reports I've read during recent years, the agency's probe is an undeniable success. You can't imagine the audacity, persistence and creativity of con artists who deliver laughable assertions with seeming unshakable sincerity.
Last week, inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, Assistant United States Attorney Lawrence E. Kole battled minister Moses Onciu in the high-yield-income-program (HYIP) scam that targeted Moore/Reitz in 2006 and 2007. Kole is an accomplished, Harvard-trained prosecutor; Onciu presents himself as a man of God, advocate for the downtrodden and successful global businessman, with tentacles in Asia, Africa, Europe and Central America. He says he's CEO of David and Goliath International Ministries Inc., CEO of Allied Petroleum LLC, "presiding Head Bishop at Hope World Ministries," administrator of Unico at Grupu de Desarrollo de Negocios Economics, director of Reliance Group of Companies LTD, CEO of Phoenix Business Services Network, and a Romanian-orphanage activist.
Onciu, who was parading behind the scenes as a high-level CIA spook, has stated that his top goal is to be "an integral part of the continued outpouring of His Holy Spirit" and to "help fulfill the Great Commission." As a defense to his arrest, he argued that while he knows most HYIP sales pitches are concocted nonsense, he truly believed his operation was legitimate. Jurors obviously didn't see it that way. The Fountain Hills, Arizona, resident can now add convicted felon to his résumé.
In September, Kole obtained a guilty plea from Onciu's accomplice, clinical nutritionist Beata Gizella Priore of Glen Head, New York. But the fascinating angle of Priore's role isn't that she'd launched Max Foundation, an alleged nonprofit organization focused on alcohol- and drug-addiction recovery. Like Onciu, she'd gone from victim to perpetrator. Both defendants turned to crime after other swindlers duped them out of money, according to court records.
U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter is scheduled to punish Onciu and Priore on Jan. 27, 2014. Given sentencing guidelines for their crimes, they face potential lengthy prison trips. A third person charged in the case, Irene Pemkova of Las Vegas, has undergone sealed mental-competency tests; it's unclear at this point if she will face trial.
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HELP DANA BUY A NEW TOUPEE
Orange County's senior, career politician is once again looking for cash handouts. As we've previously reported, Dana Rohrabacher diverts as much as 50 percent of his campaign contributions during certain quarters into his personal bank account in a laughable ruse. He'd like us to believe his wife, Rhonda, earns the money as the toiling manager of the congressman's re-election campaigns.
In reality, Rohrabacher's campaigns are comprised almost entirely of fund-raising events designed to funnel money back to the couple, who earlier this year purchased a two-story, $1 million Costa Mesa house after eons of renting in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.
You'll have an opportunity to help the congressman purchase a new toupee and his next polyester suit to go with his new, fancy digs on Oct. 27 at Old World Village in Huntington Beach. He's throwing an "Oktoberfest Celebration" that celebrates, well, himself, with "draft Hofbrauhaus beer," sauerkraut salad and tunes by "Oompah Band from Germany."
The right to party with the Rohrabachers from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. isn't free. You'll need to hand them at least $200. Looking for a deal? The couple is offering a $400 discount to people who give $2,000 for 12 tickets. Won't you help this Vietnam War draft dodger who calls himself a "patriot"? Attend so you can hear the 13-term congressman complain about all the "illegal kids" wrecking America.
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About a month before John Hong Lee repeatedly visited Las Vegas casinos during several weeks in 2010 and wrote checks for $70,000, the Fullerton man transferred the title of his home entirely to his wife without receiving any financial consideration in a fraudulent move to shelter assets, according to an Orange County Superior Court lawsuit.
William A. Orzel, a San Diego-based lawyer for casinos at the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay Resort, Aria and Bellagio, says in his complaint that following a Clark County judgment, Lee now owes the gambling establishments more than $120,000, including fees and interest.
But Lee (a.k.a. Hong Jae Lee), who has denied any wrongdoing, might be betting the house is going to lose. So far, he's outrun the casino bosses. To help his odds, he's also filed bankruptcy, a move that has further stalled the debt's payment.
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BUGS ARE NUTRITIOUS, TOO
It wasn't scalding McDonald's coffee that upset Leslie Cruz during a July 2011 visit to the fast-food restaurant in Rancho Santa Margarita.
According to her pending, five-page lawsuit, the establishment did not take adequate precautions to block "animals, insects and other foreign objects from getting into" its products, and Cruz was "served food with a large bug in it."
The plaintiff did not reveal what she'd ordered or describe whether the bug was living or dead—nor did she identify it as a cockroach, ant, mosquito, spider or termite—but she does claim the grotesque experience cost her hospital and medical expenses.
For the alleged negligence, Cruz is seeking from McDonald's damages between $10,000 and $25,000. Plus, she wants interest tacked onto her bill. A Superior Court judge has yet to be assigned to handle this litigation.